Book Review: Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art

This is a hard one to find online, (i.e. not on Amazon) so I made it easy for you–it’s here for a mere $15.

This book consists of over 60 interviews with contemporary curators. It is meant to be a handbook for beginning curators–and if you are going into the contemporary art field at all I would highly recommend this book. But I think it’s also a good read for artists who would like to get more insight into how curators think and what they feel is their relationship with artists. Also there are tidbits of treasured info scattered throughout the book that artists may find interesting, like “Put yourself in the shoes of an unprepared viewer” and “Be yourself. Don’t try to be different from others; be different by being yourself.” (A couple words of wisdom from Jean-Christophe Ammann (who was a co-curator of documenta 5).

Most of the curators in this book highlight the importance of the artist in building exhibitions and their personal relationship with artists. Bart de Baere describes, “The idea of ‘selecting artists’ to be featured in an exhibition renders invisible the aspect of mutual choice, engagement, communication. The artists who are esssential for the success of the exhibition are those whom the curator believes can realize an undertaking. Their refusal would mean a certain loss. This belief is, for me, at the heart of curatoring. It is no longer just about you and your decisions, but about the collaborative effort by both you and the artist(s) together…To the world, you speak a hypothesis of art; to the artists, a hypothesis of the world.”

What a great attitude, and my feelings exactly. Remember, the art world is full of stereotypes, and it’s not just artists getting stereotyped but curators as well. It’s not fair to either. If I could do one thing in the art world I would banish all the preconceived notions people have. It ruins a lot of really great things. But what we can do is rise above it, live by our own rules, and create our own art world.


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